Project Paper: Treating Anxiety with Dance and Movement

Project Paper: Treating Anxiety with Dance and Movement




My name is Marina Phillips and I’m an Interdisciplinary Studies Major at Plymouth State University. The beauty of being an Interdisciplinary Studies major is that I am in complete control of the way I foresee my college experience. My goal in the long run is to receive my Masters in Dance-Movement Therapy. In knowing this, I created a major that catered to my goals. Combining the disciplines of Social Work, Psychology, and dance I now have the option of going to grad school to become a licensed dance-movement therapist. I plan to work with patients in a children’s hospital to help them over come daily struggles. These struggles can range from anything between relieving anxiety before a surgery, lifting their spirits after chemotherapy, or even helping them gain a positive body image while overcoming anorexia.


My project in action consisted of mentoring a 13 year old girl, named Gracelyn, who suffers from social anxiety disorder. Each week we meet for an hour and a half to two hours, completing a total of 14 hours. Session begin with us having a quick chat about her week, both highs and lows. This helps me to better understand her way of thinking, therefor I will be able to find techniques that will cater to her struggles with anxiety. We then move into warmups consisting of yoga movements, and then move into guided meditation. Yoga and mediation are both very calming aspects to our sessions, it helps settle her mind and body so she will be better focused when going through other dance and movement therapy techniques. After yoga and mediation we begin trust exercises, such as trust falls. These exercises are important in building a positive and trusting relationship. My time with Gracelyn is also being used for my Independent Study. Throughout this process I have co-created a class with one of my Professors here at Plymouth State titled, Empowering Youth Through Movement. Students who take this class in the future will be conducting a dance and movement workshop for youth at the end of the semester. The trust exercises are the portion of my time with Gracelyn that I use to test movements for the future workshops. The rest of my sessions focus on Gracie and relieving her anxiety, although I do truly believe that these sorts of exercises are important with gaining trust from a client. I then move into guided improvisation. These techniques consist of exercises like, the Potter and the Clay, mirroring and across the floor work. The Potter and the Clay involves one person molding, or shaping another person. For example, I would stand still and Grace would move my arms, legs, torso, etc. to shape me they way she wanted, then we would switch. Mirroring involves the two of us facing one another, we would take turns moving in different ways with the other following their exact movement. Then we would attempt to move together, with not one person leading, forcing our energy to move as one. Across the floor exercises are composed of a variety of movements. For starters I would tell Gracie to use a specific body part pull her across the floor, and make sure to use levels. The term using levels suggests she get up as high has she can reach, to rolling on the ground, and every where in between. I would then call out a body part such as her finger and she would stick her pointer finger in the air and follow it as if she were being pulled by a dog on a leash. All of these exercise help Grace to understand her full range of movement and to explore which movements feel best to her body, mind, and soul. After the guided improvisation I teach her a piece of choreography I have choreographed. Each piece of choreograph explores a different dance genre that my mentee expressed interest in and are most commonly used to relieve anxiety. These styles consist of modern, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, and ballet. Throughout the choreography sections I urge her to use her full range of movement to feel a full effect of the dancing on her body. Children with social anxiety are overly aware of themselves and are extremely self conscious, because of this I am sure to motivate her and lift her spirits up by saying words of positivity and encouragement. After choreography we end with yoga and mediation to bring her back to a place of calmness and peace. Each week I noticed more improvement from Gracelyn. Not only was she becoming more comfortable with me I could tell she was becoming more comfortable in her own skin. She would express in our talks that she was having an even amount of good and bad days at school, and although her anxiety was still a big factor in her life she could tell that improvements where happening. In one of the sessions something amazing happened. She asked me if she could perform her dances from her dance studio for me. This was a big deal because in the past sessions she would have me do the choreography with her instead of having me watch her do it alone. She once told me that the only reason she is able to get up on stage at her annual studio performances was because the lights are so blinding she is not able to see the audience faces. Now, here I am, having this young girl perform her dances for me by herself, thats amazing. Although small steps have been made, I’ve concluded that to get her in a place where her anxiety isn’t a major aspect in her life, I feel our sessions together should be continued for at least three more months to see progress that would truly enhance her life. I came to this conclusion because if we made strides this big in three months time, doubling the time would do wonders for Gracie.


The title of my major is Youth Services through Dance, and that is precisely what my project in action was about. In doing this project I was able to put into practice what I have learned in all three of the disciplines that compose my major. I was able to gain a better understanding of what dance-movement therapy truly means, all while helping a child who was in need of my services. My background in Social Work allowed me to understand how to talk to and have better communication with my mentee along with her parents. It taught me the techniques to have more compassion towards a person and fully understand what they are trying to express to me. My psychology background gave me the tools I needed in understanding the psychological reasoning behind anxiety, and how dance-movement therapists express the importance in the mind, body connection. Lastly dance gives me the full understanding of how the body works, the importance of different movements and how they effect both the physical body and the soul in a positive way. I have pulled techniques to use with Grace from the 18 years of dance experience that I have, along with dance therapy books that include specific exercises and techniques. Lastly I took a yoga course here at Plymouth where I learned yoga and meditation techniques that I use with Gracie.


My research really benefited the way I worked with Grace and how to give us both a positive experience where together we learned, grew, and gained a lot out of our short time together. One of the first articles that I read discussed a study that investigated the effectiveness of modern dance on anxiety. This study questioned whether the participants outcomes were based on outside factors such as the music or the athleticism of dance, or dance itself. To test this, they created four groups. The groups were involved with either music, sport, mathematics or dance. Although they found that sport and music did help to relieve some anxiety, dance in fact did have the highest rates of relieving anxiety in participants. They stated, “Dance furthers the physical and emotional integration of the individual” (Lesté). With this being said its important to understand that, “Psyche and matter are ‘two different aspects of one and the same thing. It seems highly probable that the psychic and the physical are not two independent parallel processes, but are essentially connected through reciprocal action…” (Chodorow, pp. 44) This realization caused me to incorporate yoga and meditation into my mentoring sessions. It’s important to understand yourself both internally and externally. Psychological and physical growth can have a positive effect on a persons self-realization. Research on mediation gave me a greater appreciation for the meditation sessions I included in my mentoring program. It is much easier to be an outside factor that has a positive effect on another human. However, it is just as important to guide others to look within and observe their mental state and bodily sensations. Dance-movement therapy isn’t just about the course of action you take while working with the client, but also about how you help guide them through their own thoughts. “…where psycho-analysis brings about change in the mental attitude, there should be a corresponding change in physical behavior. When a dance therapist brings about a change in a body behavior, there should be a corresponding change in the mind. Both methods want to change the total being, body and mind.” (Siegel, pp.12) A major component to my research was based on social anxiety. This information educated my understanding of Gracelyn’s daily struggles. There are four varieties of social anxiety, these include; shame, audience anxiety, shyness, and embarrassment. I then applied the information I received to incorporate ways to help her symptoms with dance and movement. One of the greatest lessons I learned about social anxiety is that there is a major difference between social anxiety and shyness. “While social anxiety is the most prevalent anxiety disorder, the understanding of its diagnosis has moved from elementary awareness that social anxiety is not merely ‘shyness’ to a more sophisticated appreciation of its prevalence and the fact that the individuals suffering from it experience many more symptoms than just being shy…Nowadays, social anxiety has been identified as an impairing psychiatric disorder, beyond normal human shyness.” (Kalyva, pp. 33-34) When I first met Grace I classified her in my own mind to be extremely shy. It wasn’t until my talks with her that she wasn’t shy, in fact social situations to her become a potentially tragic situation. She once stated to me that she never raises her hand in class, not even to use the bathroom, because she can’t bare to have all the attention on her even for a short moment. My sessions with her are helping to build her self confidence, and I can see a major improvement from the beginning of my time with her to the end. Her condition causes her to be extremely self-aware, a boost in her confidence is what she needs to help her in even the smallest situations that most wouldn’t even give a second thought about. Dance is a creative outlet that can be so healing to a person through the mind, body, spirit connection. Channeling your own energy in a positive way can guide a person to a sense of peace and understanding within themselves. I help guide Grace to channel her own understanding of movement that she can interpret in her own way, in a way that feels positive and refreshing to her mind, body and spirit. I boost her confidence by reassuring her how beautiful her movements are, and how special, unique and talented she is. “Just as the physical body gives us a literal and concrete structure that expresses who we are, so every part and function of the body can also be understood as metaphors for the expression of our being. We feel and observe our life experiences through our bodies. Focusing on the body and its language of expressive movement, we are able to draw our awareness to sensation, posture, gesture, emotion, and thought in concrete ways. The musculoskeletal structure shapes our characteristic body posture by containing, holding, and protecting our organs and nervous system. All of the stresses of our lives are stored in and affect the body, often creating distress and imbalance, which are reflected in our emotional and mental states. Our bodies contain our life stories just as they contain bones, muscle, organs, nerves, and blood.” (Halprin, pp. 18) Understanding oneself on a deeper level can be so healing to a person. Understanding and connecting all the different complexities of a person and combining them with movement in order to help oneself, or another person is vital in healing. Every human being consists of energy, and channeling that energy is renewing to not just the person who is seeking to find themselves, but also to those who are guiding them to get there. Connecting expressive therapies to those who struggle with anxiety will change a persons life for the better. The daily stresses that my mentees body goes through, is much more than a person her age should experience. Dance and movement allows her body to release all the tension that her body stores throughout the day, allowing her life to come into balance once again. Interpersonal relationships become established through movement with the client and it then produces positive changes in functioning as a whole. Another aspect discusses the notion of active moving, and states of stillness. It is presumed that expressing varying states of perceptual awareness can be triggered from within and without the self. Perceptions from within includes observing your own thought process, bodily sensations, etc. Perceptions the outside are responses to any stimuli that is affecting the human.


Throughout my research I have learned that there are so many different aspects that go into social anxiety, which in return creates so many ways in helping a person overcome their phobia. Mentoring has opened my eyes to understanding the true power of dance and movement beyond what I had already thought. Not only is it important to involve the physical self, but it is vital in also involving the mental self. Being able to connect the two is where healing and transformation comes to into play. This understanding has given me an even greater appreciation for the field that I am in, and has opened my eyes to all the various people I will be able to help with the power of dance-movement therapy. However, the biggest realization was what a true interdiscipliarian I have become. There are not many sources or experiments in which dance is used to relieve anxiety. With the lack of information on the general topic of the effects of dance and movement on anxiety, I had to piece together the insights of the three disciplines that compose my major to understand how to use vital components of all disciplines and then connect it to working with Gracelyn. Beyond my course work here at Plymouth, this experience has been one of the most educational opportunities for me and has given me insight into more than I could have ever thought possible.


Works Cited

Buss, Arnold H. Self-consciousness and Social Anxiety. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1980. Print.

Chodorow, Joan. Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology: The Moving Imagination. London: Routledge, 1991. Print.

Gawler, Ian, and Paul Bedson. Meditation: An In-Depth Guide. New York: Penguin Group, 2011. Print.

Halprin, Daria. The Expressive Body in Life, Art, and Therapy: Working with Movement, Metaphor, and Meaning. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2003. Print.

Kalyva, Efrosini. Social Anxiety: Perceptions, Emotional and Triggering Symptoms and Treatment. N.p.: Nova Science Incorporated, 2013. Print.

Lesté, Andre, and John Rust. “Effects of Dance on Anxiety.” Am J Dance Ther American Journal of Dance Therapy 12.1 (1990): 19-25. Web.

Levy, Fran J. Dance/movement Therapy: A Healing Art. Reston, VA: National Dance Association, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 1988. Print.

Robinson, Theresa M. Social Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, and Techniques. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science, 2010. Print.

Selman, L.e., J. Williams, and V. Simms. “A Mixed-methods Evaluation of Complementary Therapy Services in Palliative Care: Yoga and Dance Therapy.” European Journal of Cancer Care 21.1 (2011): 87-97. Web.

Siegel, Elaine V. Dance-movement Therapy: Mirror of Ourselves: The Psychoanalytic Approach. New York, NY: Human Sciences, 1984. Print.

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Exam Essay


The Problem Centering approach attacks an issue by using all disciplines to solve that issue. I have decided to use the cluster of Health and Human Enrichment for this project. Student and teachers will come together to develop a program that will greatly benefit the lives of the Plymouth State Community. At Plymouth State it is known that this community truly wants their fellow PSU members to succeed wether they are an employee or student. It is tremendously difficult to do so when you have poor health, personal issues, or even a weak support system. There will be a room set up in the HUB that is easily noticeable and accessible where community members can go for both physical and mental health check ups. Community members can also go to pick up free vitamins or over the counter medication that are essential for you every day bodily functions. There will also be a daily psychologist or psychiatrist for those with mental health issues. On top of the available nurses, and doctors there will be a 24/7 help line available for anyone who may need someone to talk to about personal issues, or if they have problems making personal relationships on their own. Career peer advisors and writing center workers will also have open hours where students can drop in for help, along with sign up sheets where students can request  a tutor for a class they may be struggling with.


Contextualization takes information and looks at all that information in a much bigger way by learning about its full context. I have decided to use the cluster of Arts and Technology for this project. The Music, Theatre, Dance Department, and Art Department will all come together to make a grand show. All three departments will decide on a theme to bring awareness to the community such as Child Poverty and Homelessness. They will then turn the entire Silver Center into a show/display. Dancing and acting, art pieces, live music, impressive graphic design and light design displays will be filling the silver center to captivate the audience in the theme. Most of the money that will be raised will then be donated to an organization that deals with the theme it was based on, in this case an organization that fights Child Poverty and Homelessness. The rest of the money will be divided between the two departments.


Conceptualization takes a concept and has you think about it in a different way. I have decided to use the cluster of Tourism, Environment, and Sustainable Development for this project. Students and teachers will come together to develop a program that takes willing participants on a trip throughout tourist locations such as Brazil. According to wikipedia, “Tourism is travel for pleasure; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists.” All of this will be included within the trip, by taking the participants to beaches, site seeing spots, and entertainment. However; apart from the vacation aspect they will also learn about the environment they are in and how to take away life lessons from this experience. You can learn a lot from other cultures. The participants will then develop sustainable development goals based on what they took away from the community they traveled to that they feel their local community can use, and also create sustainable development goals based on what they feel the community they are visiting could benefit from. They will then present the goals to each community in hopes to make a positive difference. Goals can consist of affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, etc.

Treating Anxiety With Dance and Movement

Treating Anxiety With Dance and Movement


Treating Anxiety with Dance and Movement

Anxiety is a form of stress that can be experienced in ways such as physically, emotionally, and in the way people view the world around them. Anxiety mostly relates to worry about what might happen such as worrying about things going wrong or feeling as if you are in danger.When the body and mind react, we can feel physical sensations, like dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and sweaty or shaky hands and feet. These sensations are called the fight–flight response. This response is caused by a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones that prepare the body to make a “flight” from danger.

My Capstone Project will involve researching movement and dance therapy techniques that help with generalized anxiety disorder. I will be mentoring a young girl suffering from this disorder while applying techniques learned through research. I will also keep a journal of what was and wasn’t successful for this child and her anxiety. I will deliver this project in separate components. First is a paper on my research of both anxiety, and dance/movement therapy used for generalized anxiety disorder. Second will be a total of 14 hours of mentoring a young student with anxiety. The mentoring aspect of my project is also going to be used for my independent study. My independent study consists of me helping my former Social Work professor, David Lynch, co-create a class titled; Empowering Youth Through Movement. The point of the mentoring is so that I can test out certain movement exercises we found to be beneficial of the course with my men-tee , that way future students can use these methods while teaching dance/movement workshops to young children for their final. The mentoring aspect for my Capstone is a much larger portion of my time spent with my men-tee. For confidentiality purposes I will use the name Hayley to refer to my men-tee. Hayley is extremely shy and struggles with enjoying anything in life due to her extreme anxiety. I have been researching my own movements, and dance styles that will help decrease her anxiety symptoms and help her find her comfort zone around strangers. The third component will consist of a journal that I will record in before, during, and after my mentoring session. Lastly a the end of the 14 hours I will have the young girl fill out an easy to understand evaluation form for our sessions.

I will be connecting this project to the Common Ground Theory. It is stated in our Interdisciplinary book that, “ people cannot rely on just any information they have about each other. The must establish just the right piece of common ground, and that depends on them finding a shared basis for that piece. Accordingly two people’s common ground is, in effect, the sum of their mutual, common, or joint knowledge, beliefs, and suppositions.” This theory is completely relevant to my project because both Hayley and myself need one another to meet at a common ground for us both to be successful. She is trusting in me to help her with her anxiety issues, where I am trusting in her to let me know if my teaching and theories are relieving her anxiety.

I will be drawing from the disciplines of Social Work, Psychology, and dance. Psychology research will allow me to gain a more in depth understanding of anxiety; how does it effect the body, or one’s daily life? Social Work research and practice will help me understand how to fully communicate with Hayley, while being patient, understanding, sympathetic, and uplifting. It will also help with my communication between her parents and I. The dance discipline will allow me to understand movement and dance styles that I will be using as a form of therapy in each session.

The timeline for my project will consists of a weekly meeting with my men-tee till the end of the year with an over all goal of 14 hours of meeting times. I have already began mentoring on Thursday, March 3 at 7:00pm. My research paper draft will be due in class on Tuesday, May 3. My final research paper, weekly journal, and evaluation sheets will be due Tuesday, May 10.


Ideas for my Capstone

1.) Research what types of dance/movement different people respond to. ex) Does a person with depression respond to different movements than a person with anxiety? Does a person with Parkinson’s respond to different movement than a person with cancer? etc. I will then take my research and create a hypothetical program. I will make a website for it and display all of my knowledge.

2.) I will research all of the same things as option no. 1 except I will find patients who would be willing to let me work with them in individual or group settings. After a serious of meetings I will give them a feedback sheet with a serious of questions asking them if they felt a positive difference from dance/movement therapy, if they would continue their experience, and if they felt I had a strong understanding in the field.

3.) I will find a dance/movement therapist who would let me shadow them for a certain number of hours. I will follow up with a reflective/research paper after I clocked in my hours.

4.) Conduct a serious of dance/movement therapy sessions as a form of stress management for university students to see if it reduces stress levels, also to see if it helps to enhance their academic performance.

5.) Conduct workshops for middle school and/or high school students who may deal with bullying issues (either the bully or the target). I’ll be working with the staff of the schools to see if bullying issues have decreased over the serious of workshops.

IDS Application Essay

Youth Services Through Dance

The ideas and issues of my major focus on creating an environment that deals with the emotional, social, and physical needs of children addressed through dance. The Social Work discipline works to improve the quality of life of individuals, groups, communities, and families. The Psychology discipline focuses on personality, social behavior, and human development, while dance works with dance education, history, and technique of dancing. The combination of these three disciplines are important in trying to reach my career goals. Having the skill sets of dealing with human behavior and different social environments, and a knowledge of dance with both performance and teaching skills, puts me in a great place of reaching children through the art of dance. No one major has the combination of these skills. My goal is to receive my masters in Dance/Movement Therapy such as the ones offered at Pratt Institute and Lesley University. DMT uses movement and dance to support emotional, intellectual, and motor functions of the body. I hope to work in schools and within hospitals, mainly children’s hospitals, to help patients cope with all sorts of diseases. These diseases can vary from cancer to anorexia. In cases such as cancer DMT could be used to regain strength both physically and mentally. Anorexic patients could benefit from Dance/Movement Therapy to regain self confidence.

There are a variety of different dance courses that are vital for my education. The first category of classes of which I will be taking deal with technique and performance. Advanced ballet, advanced tap, advanced jazz, advanced modern, and contemporary dance ensemble all strengthen my knowledge, understanding, and skills for my own personal dancing and performance abilities. I need to be strong within these genres of dance in order to properly educate my future students and pass my skills and technique onto them. The second category of dance classes in which I will take is the educational aspect of dance. Dance Pedagogy I and II certifies me with the ability to teach the art of dance in school systems. These are vital classes for me within this discipline because one of my goals is to work with students in schools. Dance composition teaches me multiple different skills and ways of looking at movement and placement on stage in mastering the ability to choreograph dances. Lastly History of Modern Dance and Technique looks into the history of dance, where it has come from and what it is evolving into. This wide range of dance courses will make me a well rounded dancer, choreographer, and educator.

Because I am planning on working within school systems and children’s hospitals my disciplines of Social Work deal with children. The range of courses that I have selected to put together for my contract will give me a well rounded mind set for dealing with issues in the lives of children. The first course I have selected is Introduction to Social Work. This introduces core values, practices, and the history of social work, and will ensure I have a basic understanding of how this field works. Next I chose Child Welfare and Family Services to educate me with knowledge involving foster care, and child protective services. Another course in which I found to be necessary is Child Maltreat. Working in both the hospital and school systems I will have to deal with many issues present in student’s personal lives. This course will educate me with topics in interventions to prevent or remedy child maltreatment, abuse, neglect, family violence and psychological maltreatment. Upon these subjects the course Families, Schools, and Community deal with problems and issues, including effective parenting, abuse and neglect, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and insufficient family supports and resources. This provides overview of role of schools and communities in promotion of healthy families and considers models for prevention, assessment, intervention, and evaluation. Philosophical and Historical Perspective on the Child in Society (WRCO) deals with culture’s beliefs, and ideologies and how those are reflected in the education and treatment of children. These are all topics to keep in mind with working in hospitals and schools, since children come from all different backgrounds, values, and beliefs.

Introduction to General Psychology will allow me to focus on specific areas in science and study of behavior and mental processes. Psychology has vital information I need in being able to understand individuals and groups by establishing both general principles and researching specific cases. The ultimate aim of Psychology is to benefit society, and that is my ultimate goal as well. Measuring Behavior (TECO) will help me learn how to use technologies to work with relevant data in my field.

Since a young age I was always sure of just two things. First that I love to help others in anyway I can. The second being that I love to dance. Entering Plymouth State University I was completely unsure of what it was that I wanted to study. When I discovered the interdisciplinary studies program I instantly had an idea of what I wanted to create. I found it to be extremely difficult, yet rewarding to be apart of the interdisciplinary major. I love the sense of uniqueness that I can bring to the table in our work force. I feel that it is important to study what interests and best suits you. Interdisciplinary studies allowed me to pinpoint my exact interests and will enable me to thrive as a student, and future employer. Being able to mix disciplines of Plymouth States social work and psychology major, and dance minor has given me an interdisciplinarian quality that many other students can not say that they have achieved. I look forward to graduating with a unique degree titled “Youth Services Through Dance” and being able to say that I have created a major that best captivates who I am as a student and worker.

Dance/Movement Therapy

Dance/Movement Therapy

Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to dance and help others, as I grew older I was determined to find a career path that combined those two things. My interdisciplinary studies major combines the disciplines of Social Work, Psychology, and dance to prepare me for receiving my Masters in Dance/Movement Therapy. I just wanted to add a quick post about what exactly Dance/Movement Therapy is.

“Based on the empirically supported premise that the body, mind and spirit are interconnected, the American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of the individual.
Dance/movement therapy is:
Focused on movement behavior as it emerges in the therapeutic relationship. Expressive, communicative, and adaptive behaviors are all considered for group and individual treatment. Body movement, as the core component of dance, simultaneously provides the means of assessment and the mode of intervention for dance/movement therapy.
Is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational and forensic settings, and in nursing homes, day care centers, disease prevention, health promotion programs and in private practice.
Is effective for individuals with developmental, medical, social, physical and psychological impairments.
Is used with people of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds in individual, couples, family and group therapy formats.”